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Amazon set to bring autonomous delivery to the UK

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Amazon has expanded its R&D around autonomous delivery technology in the UK, creating a dedicated team at its Cambridge development centre.

The team will be focused on Amazon Scout, Amazon’s fully-electric autonomous delivery service. Amazon Scout devices are the size of a small cooler and roll along pavements at a walking pace.

The service is in field test mode, currently delivering packages to customers in four states in the US, but will continue to expand to more customers.

The investment in this new Amazon Scout team in the UK, which will consist of dozens of engineers, is driven by Amazon’s partnership with the Cambridge community centred around the University. 

The team will work closely with the Amazon Scout research lab in Seattle to develop on-system software to help Scout delivery devices safely and autonomously navigate around pedestrians, pets and obstacles found in residential neighbourhoods such as recycling bins and signposts.

Establishing a new group for Amazon Scout in Cambridge is another example of Amazon’s continued investment in Cambridge and in the UK. Amazon Scout joins other teams that form Amazon’s innovative Cambridge Development Centre, which hosts groups focused on other pioneering areas.

The creation of the Amazon Scout team in Cambridge follows on from last week’s announcement that the retail giant is creating 10,000 new permanent roles across the UK in 2020, taking the company’s total permanent UK workforce to more than 40,000.

This comes on the back of 3,000 new permanent roles to its workforce across the UK network of fulfilment centres, sort centres and delivery stations – including at a new hi-tech fulfilment centre in the North East of England which opened in May 2020.

Commenting on the move, Hugh Fletcher, Global Head of Consultancy and Innovation, Wunderman Thompson Commerce, says: “Known for convenience, immediacy and reliability, Amazon’s latest foray into autonomous technology deliveries in the UK is an exciting advent for a sector that has a pivotal role to play in bolstering the UK economy. Moreover, it’s another example of what the ‘new normal’ could look like in retail as businesses discover new ways to safely purchase goods, and another example of its bench-mark setting service – in fact, our research found that 75% of consumers wished that all retailers and brands offered the same level of service as Amazon.”

He adds: “When it comes to speedy delivery, Amazon, and more significantly Amazon Prime, is often perceived as the best and 57% of shoppers agree. And, as online orders placed on Amazon become more commonplace, with the majority (55%) of UK consumers being Prime subscribers, there is a renewed pressure to compete with a service as wide-reaching as Amazon’s. Scout could even be another way to connect the giant’s vast marketplace with its ever-expanding Fresh service and tackle the grocery sector. The task for retailers, then, will be finding a balance between working alongside Amazon to take advantage of its services and audience, while continuing to grow their own market share.”

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